Thursday, August 30, 2007

Real Life Drama

Last night, I finally got to see the premiere episode of Life of Ryan, the reality show about skater Ryan Sheckler, brought to you by executive producers Liz Gateley and Tony DiSanto of Laguna and The Hills fame.

I was actually eager to see this show. Though he’s apparently a huge figure in the skating world, the only time I ever heard of this kid was when I saw his MTV Cribs episode from about five years ago. He must have been no more than 11- or 12-years-old, and he’s showing off his house with his private skate park and explaining the benefits of the açaí fruit that Bob Burnquist recommended to him. There were a few things that really struck me about the first episode:

  • The kid loves his dad and his brothers
  • DJ-equipped, double-decker party buses look tremendously fun, yet dangerous when traveling down a California freeway
  • He has the best life ever, as evidenced by the fact that all he does is skate, travel to Dubai, bitch about having to go to Japan and go to school
  • His mother, Gretchen, has MILF potential
  • He and his friends actually look like seniors in high school

The last two are the most important points, but the last one really got to me. I wouldn’t have expected him and his friends to be portrayed in such a youthful way, especially when the show was brought to us by the masterminds behind Laguna Beach (notice the prevalence of the word “drama” in this show).

It’s somewhat of a paradox because with Life of Ryan, you actually have a character who recognizes and understands who and what he is—a professional skater, that is to say a carefully handled corporate product. On the other hand, you have Laguna Beach/Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County, where a bunch of teenagers are being filmed under the pretense that they’re living their real lives and going through the ups and downs of high school.

Take a look at the characters. When you see Ryan and his friends eating at the mall and talking about what they’re doing before winter formal or taking pictures before the dance, they actually look like high school seniors. Glance at the crew from Newport Harbor, and ask yourselves how many juniors are built like Clay and how many sophomores look like Taylor? It looks like they were pulled from a soap opera casting call.

It seems that Life of Ryan is the more “real” show. They show him going through some real problems that kids actually experience (divorced parents; where he and his brothers will spend Christmas) and problems that many people in high profile positions face (being away from his family; how fame affects his relationships). All these things really seem to tear at him and cause him pain. When you watch a show like Laguna, all you see is people trying to backstab each other so they can hook up. That and planning trips for Cabo! What happens in Cabo, stays in Cabo—except what they catch on camera. (Ryan also probably bought his own Range Rover, whereas the kids from Newport Harbor probably got them as gifts from Mommy & Daddy. It doesn’t get more real than being able to afford your own Range Rover—with rims.)

Having said all this, am I going to stop watching Newport Harbor? Hell no! I need to get my weekly dose of intellectual conversation between Clay and Grant. My favorite so far is when they were choosing outfits for the pink party during the second episode, and they went nuts and started yelling and clapping for the outfit spread across the bed. It was pure bliss.

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